If you are creating videos which include music and intending to share them online, you will need to find audio tracks that you are legally permitted to use.
There are lots of great copyright-free, royalty-free and Creative Commons licensed tracks available for use by creators.
It’s useful to have an understanding of some of the different terms surrounding music and copyright. For instance, you can easily find “royalty-free” music online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s cost-free.
Here are some of the more common terms:
- Copyright-free or public domain: the music is “free of copyright” usually because the work has lapsed into the public domain.
- Royalty-free: the work is free from ongoing payments. Most of the time you will pay a one-off license fee in order to use the music in your project. Some royalty-free sites offer music at no cost, but there may be limitations to the way you can use that track, or the audio file itself might be of a lower quality (ie. MP3 instead of WAV)
- Creative Commons: the creator proactively chooses to allow their music to be used by creators, usually with attribution. Some types of Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow you to remix or alter the work and other CC licenses do not allow this .
Most royalty-free and Creative Commons licensed music requires attribution. This means that you need to include the composer details and other information in your video, or in the video description if it’s posted somewhere like Youtube.
The composer of the music will specify what needs to go into the attribution and you can find that information when you download the track. Attributions may include things like the composer name and website and the license information.
Even if the license doesn’t require it, I think it’s a nice idea to include the attribution anyway!
Here are some examples of attributions:
Snow Dancer by Roa Music | https://soundcloud.com/roa_music1031
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
Sneaky Snitch by Kevin MacLeod
Where to find cost-free music
- Youtube Audio Library – you need to have a Youtube channel in order to access the Youtube library. Even if you don’t have a channel yet, just sign into your Google account and follow the steps to create your channel. You don’t need to publish anything on your channel if you don’t want to, but it will give you access to the audio library so you can download free music tracks.
- Kevin MacLeod – Incompetech – I’ve been a fan of Kevin MacLeod’s for a long time. He’s a prolific composer that works in a range of styles. You can search by mood, genre, tempo and more. A number of his tracks also feature in the Youtube Audio library
- Free Stock Music – a collection of royalty free music. Free to use and just requires an attribution. Search music by mood, tempo, category and more.
- Silverman Sound – Creative Commons licensed tracks by Shane Ives which simply require attribution. Useful for Youtube videos, video games, films and more.
- Elementary Groove Tracks – elementary music teacher Cameron Moten has a selection of free tracks for teachers to use (plus some paid ones too). – the creator of the Elementary Groove Tracks
- Bandlab Sound Library – the loops and tracks from the Bandlab loop library, available for use in any project, even outside of Bandlab itself. Head to the Packs tab and search the varied collections of music.
- Bensound – royalty-free music that you can download cost-free as long as you include an attribution. You can pay a fee to use the music attribution-free.
- Musopen – a collection of Classical music tracks which are free to download and use in your video projects.
If you’re going to use music tracks on a regular basis and you want to use someone else’s music without attribution or get access to a higher quality audio file, you might like to consider some of these premium/paid options.
Check each site for payment options and the conditions of use. Some require a one-off license payment for a single track and others operate on a subscription basis where an ongoing monthly fee will give you access to a range of tracks.
Download your copy
Would you like to take a copy of this article with you? Click the button below and a copy of this will be sent directly into your inbox.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.